Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Trouble with "Respect"

I really like that title. It reminds me of two other titles. One title it reminds me of is a cute Hayley Mills movie called The Trouble with Angels. The other one I'm reminded of is a cute Star Trek episode called The Trouble with Tribbles. (how can a Star Trek Episode be cute, you may ask? well is you have ever seen it, you wouldn't ask.)

But as cute and fun as those two shows were, the trouble with 'respect' is neither cute nor fun. It's frustrating.

It's frustrating when men declare that 'women must respect their husbands' is a straight up command from God based on the needs of men to be respected when I know that the Greek word used in Ephesians that is translated 'respect' is the same word we get 'phobia' from.

I could go on but K. Martin put it so well in a comment under yesterday's post. I'm going to cut and paste her comment here so that people won't miss it.

"It can be difficult to understand Ep 5:33 and the "men need respect" issue from a modern and Western perspective. It's helpful to consider the Greek. The word used for respect in Ep 5:33 is phobeĆ³ (Strong's 5399). Synonyms listed for the word phobeo are fear, dread, reverence, am afraid, terrified. Wendy mentioned the word "reverence" in her blog post. However, most commentators totally omit the fear and dread part. The English word phobia was derived from the Greek phobeo. Paul was advising wives to have a certain amount of reverence AND fear for their husbands. Why would Paul say such a thing? The context is very important. In a patriarchal society, women (especially young girls) were forced to marry men that their fathers chose. I think we can all imagine the implications of an arranged marriage for a young girl in a patriarchal society. In ancient Rome, wife beating was legal. It was almost impossible for a woman to get a divorce or seek outside refuge because of ill treatment. We know from Ephesians that the idea of a husband loving his wife like Christ loved the church and died for her was a new, radical concept. In this climate, fear might be a wife's best defense under the circumstances causing her to tread lightly around a potentially abusive, unloving husband.

"With that being said, I believe that Ep 5:33 does infer something very telling about the nature of men, and it all points back to Ge 3:16. Wendy has done an excellent job of fleshing out the "your desire will be for your husband" on her blog. However, the "he will rule over you" is another issue commentators like to omit and remain silent about. The Hebrew word for rule is mashal (Strong's 4910). The definition means to have dominion, reign and master. In light of that I believe that men want to be feared (phobeo) because fear makes it a lot easier for them to dominate, master and reign over their wives. Albeit, the Hebrew word rule (mishal) is very different from the servant leadership that Jesus modeled in the NT, but that's another discussion.

"In the animal kingdom, "being feared" helps predators trap prey and achieve dominance and rank. On the flip side, "being afraid" helps prey be alert, flee and hide from potential predators and dangerous situations."

Mara here again. I really like her comment. I John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear. This should cause one question whether or not Paul is really saying that all wives for all time should fear their husbands at the same time he's telling husbands to love their wives. Making respect/fear a command for all time rather than a realizing that it is a particular instruction toward the Ephesian patriarchal structure has no merit.

And as K. Martin has said, men who are demanding respect and being told it is their need, one that their wives should fill unconditionally, this plays into and sanctifies their fallen nature to want to lord over their wives. Anything that plays into any human being's fallen nature, male of female... It's not cute. It's ugly as sin.


K. Martin said...

Discovering that my comment had been highlighted was a pleasant surprise. I am still reading and enjoying the posts and comments. I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of the conversation. Thanks!

K. Martin said...

On Wendy's blog, she touches on the whole respect as fear issue:

"The context in Ephesians 5 is not one of fear of retribution. Paul used the same word in Ephesians 5: 21 -- submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Again, there is no fear of retribution in that relationship. In fact, Paul has spent the previous 4 chapters of Ephesians explaining the lavish grace God has poured out on us through Christ. There is truly NO way Paul is indication in Eph. 5:21 we are supposed to have a cowering fear of Jesus. I think reverence and respect are really good ways to translate phobeo in this context, which is why the vast majority of English translations by way smarter people than me have translated it exactly that way for hundreds of years."

When Paul talked about marriage in the NT, there are times when he referenced the relationship between Christ and the church. Other times, he referenced God and Old Testament law. "There is no fear of retribution in that relationship." I gather that she is talking about our relationship with Christ. While the NT doesn't introduce or describe Christ as this figure that we should fear, the God of the OT is one to be feared. Trinity - God in three persons. In his teaching, Paul refers to all three at times: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I'm reminded of the incident between Ananias and Sapphira. In their case, there should have been "fear of retribution."

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great FEAR seized the whole church and all who heard about these events (Acts 5:10-11).

This would indicate that there is and should be a certain amount of fear in our relationship with Christ. Someone might argue that they lied to the Holy Spirit and not Christ. The marriage relationship is symbolic of Christ's relationship with the church - not the Holy Spirit and the church. However, the Trinity is God in three persons. It's difficult to try and separate or differentiate one personality from the other because they are just ONE God. I said all that to say that "fear of retribution" is still relevant in the NT. At least it was for Ananias and Sapphira.

No doubt, the English translators are more educated than me. However, the English translations of the Bible are different from the Hebrew and Greek. Unfortunately, the English translations don't do the Hebrew and Greek the justice they deserve. However, we can't all be proficient in Hebrew and Greek. We just glean what we can from the lexicon and concordance. With that being said, I believe the English translators chose the words reverence and respect rather than fear in a effort to "sanitize" the idea of respect and the imagery of the relationship between husband and wife.

Mara Reid said...

I've heard this before, too. We should fear in our relationships with our husbands because we never know what path they may want to drag us down.

This is a far cry from the "Love Respect" teachings by Eggrichs.